Climate Change and National Security


The negative effects produced by the increase in temperature on the planet have been observed with greater frequency and impact in Peru. The glacial retreat that is causing the decrease in water for human consumption -especially in the cities of the coast- and the increase in the periodicity of the El Niño phenomenon that impacts with excessive rains on the north coast of the country and great droughts in the area of ​​the southern highlands are clear examples of what has been happening. From a human security perspective, these events are affecting the life and health of people and communities. Human security is framed within national security and subdivided into dimensions related to economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political security. The inaction of the State in these areas causes an increase in poverty, hunger, diseases, among others, with the most vulnerable human being is the most affected due to their low level of development, undermining the security of the nation. Therefore, the National Strategy for Climate Change must reflect the commitment of the Peruvian State to act in an integrated, transversal and multisectoral manner, complying with the international commitments assumed by Peru and promoting forecasting and action efforts to adapt production systems and social services in the face of the negative effects of climate change, the same ones that affect the country’s governance.

Key Words: Climate change, national security, human security, temperature increase, effects, consequences, mitigation, adaptation.


Climate change and its effects are one of the main concerns worldwide. The scenario that is presented is increasingly worrying because it directly affects human life and its incidence is manifested in multiple ways on the planet. Human beings at different stages of history and in direct interaction with various ecosystems have been able to adapt and overcome a wide variety of climatic manifestations. However, humanity experiences sudden and abnormal fluctuations in climatic conditions, endangering the essential sources of life.

Since the industrial revolution began, human activities have caused an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, causing unusual patterns of change in the planet’s climate, the same as evidenced in the accelerated increase in global temperature, unexpected changes in precipitation patterns, changes in sea level, acidification of the oceans and melting of glaciers, among others. In this regard, there is growing evidence that such changes in climate will continue to influence the frequency of occurrence of extreme weather events such as storms, heat waves, droughts and floods.

Faced with this threat, Peru has implemented State policies in order to increase awareness, create adaptive capacity and contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases. However, the expected results are not being obtained because pollution is a global problem that affects national security, seen from a human security perspective.[1]

Consequences of climate change in Peru

In Peru, the main effects of the increase in global temperature are associated with glacial retreat or deglaciation, the increase in the frequency and intensity of the El Niño phenomenon and the rise in sea level.[2] On the one hand, the main effect of the gradual accumulation of greenhouse gases is manifesting itself through glacial retreat, which will mainly affect coastal cities, projecting that, by 2025, Peru’s glaciers will be below the 5,500 meters above sea level will have disappeared. This fact would have negative consequences on the availability of water for human consumption, industrial processes and power generation by hydroelectric source. On the other hand, climate change causes a warming of the upper layer of the ocean, which could affect the frequency and intensity of the El Niño phenomenon, generating a great climatic alteration that manifests itself in intense rains in the north and severe droughts in the region. Altiplano in the south of the country. Likewise, the increase in global temperature generates thermal changes in the density of the water, causing its dilation and, consequently, the increase in sea level. This situation causes great impacts on the activities carried out in coastal areas due to the risk of flooding in low-lying areas, which can cause great human and material losses, as well as economic ones.[3]

As a result of this instability, human food, health and development are being threatened. Climate change also threatens to undo the gains made in recent years in healthcare, education, transportation and decent jobs. The poorest people – especially women, children and people with disabilities in rural areas – are the most affected, being – at the same time – the groups that have had the least impact on the increase in this phenomenon. Currently, there is uncertainty in the population when drinking water reaches their homes with restrictions, as well as electricity, all produced by the loss of volume of glaciers and the melting that will probably continue in the Andes Mountains. Likewise, the population of the country lives thinking about when the next El Niño phenomenon or the next drought will occur. In short, this is an environmental phenomenon with profound economic and social consequences that directly affect society.

New approach to Security: Human security

To face these threats, the United Nations Organization presented a new approach to security, called “human security”, which was used for the first time in 1994, in one of the reports that this organization produces annually within the framework of the Program of the United Nations for Development. This report was the beginning of a global reflection on the new dimensions of human security. Currently, this concept is used by a large number of experts and academic researchers to underline that human security has a multidimensional, interdependent, universal and preventive character, since security -in its basic sense- focuses on the life and health of the person, the family and the community.[4]

In Peru, the new approach to human security was officially used in 2017 with the promulgation of Supreme Decree No. 012-2017-DE, which approves the National Security and Defense Policy. This document maintains that human security is divided into seven dimensions related to various types of threats: economic security, food security, health, environment, personal, community and political.[5] For this reason, National Security is oriented to the defense of the person and the community, through human security. This concept focuses on people and their social relationships, as an integral part of national and global security. Human security addresses the well-being of people from multiple and interrelated perspectives, being an integrative and relational concept that draws attention to the present and emerging vulnerability that is generated through social, political, economic, institutional and cultural conditions.

Climate Change: A Human Security Issue

Faced with this new concept, the need to examine the possible repercussions of climate change for security is recognized, considering the pre-existing social, economic and environmental threats or pressures, which are key factors for the security of people, communities and States. In this sense, these factors include: (1) the persistence of poverty, hunger and disease, (2) the rapid growth of informal urban settlements (with unsanitary housing and inadequate infrastructure and services), (3) the high unemployment rates (especially among the youth) and (4) increasing scarcity of land, water and other resources.[6]

The magnitude of specific threats, as well as the ability of individuals, communities and societies to recover, and to effectively adapt to these threats, affect the security implications of climate change. In places where climate change is expected to pose a serious threat to human well-being, due to the low level of human development and the fragility of state institutions, the implications for security tend to be more pronounced, potentially generating social tensions and policies. In this regard, various States have stated that threats can and should be reduced through sustainable development, which includes legitimate and effective government institutions, as well as the peaceful settlement of disputes.[7]

Therefore, it is useful to think of climate change as a multiplying vector of threats; that is, a factor that can act in various ways to exacerbate the already existing causes of conflict and insecurity. In the same way, the policies, institutions and actions in charge of the State would serve to alleviate and effectively manage these tensions, through mitigation strategies and putting into practice processes of adaptation to these policies, which can be considered reducing forces of the threats.

Effects on Safety

As mentioned, the effects of climate change threaten not only the well-being of the most vulnerable communities, but also human rights, which have an intrinsic link with the right to life, health, food, and water and to the house.[8] Likewise, these effects threaten economic development since there could be an interruption or a sharp slowdown in economic growth due to climate change, which would lead to an increase in poverty and marginalization. Economic growth is seen as important for building resilience, maintaining political stability, making cooperation more attractive and giving hope to disadvantaged populations.[9]

Other effects could be due to competition for scarce resources with other communities or groups, which would lead to the overflow of governance capacity at the local or national level. These trends can manifest themselves as localized conflicts or repercussions at the international level that can translate into a resurgence of tensions or even conflicts over resources.[10] In this sense, climate change is linked to changes in the availability of natural resources and the possibility of accessing them, which can happen as a consequence of increased scarcity of resources (for example, shared waterways) or from the sudden expansion of shared or non-delimited resources.[11]

In the not too distant future, if awareness is not raised and if the States do not participate in solving the problem of the increase in temperature on the planet, the effects of climate change will multiply and directly affect people, undermining their fundamental rights.[12] Additionally, the effects of climate change will affect all dimensions of human security, generating chaos, poverty, hunger, disease, migration and conflict, among other aspects. Therefore, solutions to the problem of climate change are linked to attacking its causes (mitigation) or trying to manage its consequences (adaptation). Both solutions require, however, costly efforts in political and economic terms, which is why many of those who today oppose taking serious action to confront climate change justify their opposition because of the high costs that these actions entail, since mitigation and adaptation includes technological and infrastructure innovations that involve high costs.

The role of the state

The State must ensure, protect and provide the strategic resources necessary for its growth and development, facing enormous challenges, among which access to energy and water sources, border disputes and humanitarian emergencies. The deterioration of environmental security, as a result of the impacts of climate change, can have a specific impact on the loss of territory and the potential collapse of social, economic and political life.[13] Therefore, each of the problems produced by climate change puts at risk the State and its institutions, interstate relations, national and international security, as well as the survival of human beings and of various species of flora and fauna. Additionally, it threatens to sharpen the other issues on the current security agenda, such as terrorism, the decomposition of the State, corruption, illegal arms trafficking, and transnational organized crime.[14]

The existence of effective institutions at the local and national level is vital for the State and for the country’s governance, mitigating any security risk that may arise from climate change. The Government – in cooperation with civil society – must formulate and implement an effective and coordinated national strategy on climate change. If the effect of climate change increases the scarcity of resources or natural disasters intensify, the capacity of the State could be overwhelmed, and violent conflicts could be generated as poverty and the economic crisis worsen. Experience indicates that extreme events cause postponements in the economic and social development plans of the countries, causing physical and mental damage in society in general.

Consequently, society also plays an important role since it must know, cooperate and disseminate information to help mitigate the advance of the increase in temperature on the planet, through the following actions: (1) Help prevent the global temperature increase more than 1.5 ° C. (2) Reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. (3) Stop using fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) as soon as possible. (4) Ensure that measures are taken in a way that does not violate the rights of any person, reducing inequality rather than increasing it (5). Ensure that people, especially those affected by climate change or the transition to an economy without fossil fuels, are informed about what is happening and can participate in making decisions about their future. (6) Cooperate to fairly distribute the burden of climate change, where more developed countries should help developing countries.


Climate change has been affecting life on the planet and caused instability in human beings as it affects aspects such as food, health and development. However, the most vulnerable people (women, children, the elderly) are those who are least likely to overcome and mitigate this threat. On the one hand, national security presents a new approach called human security, which encompasses a range of concepts focusing on people and their social relationships. On the other hand, climate change is a great threat to national security, because it creates great challenges that must be faced by the State. For this reason, the State itself must be in charge of making the population aware of this latent and increasingly aggressive problem, formulating and implementing policies and strategies for adaptability and mitigation in the face of this threat.

The person is the supreme goal of society and the State, so the priority of the Peruvian State must be its protection against all kinds of threats, especially against the effects of climate change. In this sense, the deterioration of environmental security as a result of the impacts of climate change would be very harmful and even catastrophic, which could cause the potential collapse of the country’s social, economic and political life.


  1. Decreto Supremo N° 012 / 2017 / DE Aprobación de la Política de Seguridad y Defensa Nacional, 19, (Cited June 8, 2021).
  2. Paola Vargas, El Cambio Climático y sus efectos en el Perú, Banco de Crédito del Perú, (Lima: Junio del 2009), 26, (Cited June 8, 2021).
  3. Ibid., 27.
  4. Juan Pablo Fernández Pereira, Tesis Doctoral de Seguridad Humana,(Barcelona: Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, June 2005), 36.
  5. Decreto Supremo N° 012 /2017/ DE Aprobación de la Política de Seguridad y Defensa Nacional, 13.
  6. Informe del Secretario General de las Naciones Unidas, El cambio climático y sus posibles repercusiones para la seguridad (Washington: June 3, 2009), 6,, (Cited July 18, 2021).
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., 7.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid
  11. Ibid.
  12. Constitución Política del Perú, Articulo N° 1, (Lima: 1993), Pol%C3%ADtica-del-Peru-1993.pdf (Cited July 9, 2021).
  13. Informe del Secretario General de las Naciones Unidas, El cambio climático y sus posibles repercusiones para la seguridad (Washington: June 3, 2009), 30.
  14. Henry Eduardo Piedra Duran, Tesis de Maestría en Cambio Climático y Negociación Ambiental (Ecuador; Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, 2020), 49.


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The ideas contained in this analysis are the sole responsibility of the author, without necessarily reflecting the thoughts of the CEEEP or the Peruvian Army.

Image: CEEEP